‘Tis the season for processes

Phil Harwood
Phil Harwood

The winter months provide an outstanding opportunity to review and fix processes that need attention. In my experience, most organizations have some processes that are either broken or missing. For those without serious process problems to address, the winter months allow for review, revision and improvement of processes that may be adequate but could be better.

Broken or missing processes cause problems. That’s why they need to be fixed. Look no further than your problem areas to identify processes to work on this winter. If you’re still at a loss, ask your people. Those who are in the trenches every day may have more insight into process problems than managers do.

Processes that are commonly missing or broken include:
-Onboarding process for new hires;
-Financial budgeting and review;
-Employee feedback and review;
-Strategic planning;
-Professional development;
-Business development;
-New customer onboarding;
-Account management;
-Customer service; and
-Quality control.

When I consider my organization, I see several processes that need attention. They may not be broken, per se, but they’re on my radar screen. I recognize the potential benefit that excellent process management brings. I also recognize the potential damage that poor process management has regarding employee and customer satisfaction, efficiency and profitability.

Champion vs. doer

Once the process has been identified, it’s important to clarify who’s accountable for the process, keeping in mind the owner of the process may or may not be the person who implements the process. For example, let’s say that the process to be improved is your onboarding process for new hires. You and your team decide that Joe is accountable for this process. As the process owner, Joe will take responsibility for creating a written process document that meets the approval of the team. This process will most likely involve many steps that Joe will not personally execute. He is the “champion” of the process, not necessarily the “doer” of the process.

My advice to Joe is to interview select people in the company to fully understand the existing process and what’s wrong with it. I would encourage Joe to do his homework and research better processes for onboarding. Joe should reach out to his network contacts—those people he met from attending industry events—to learn what they have in place.

Once Joe has a draft, I’d encourage him to present it to the team to gain their input. Armed with this feedback, Joe will continue to refine his documented process until the team approves it. The approved process will then need to be implemented, which may or may not involve Joe.

As you and your team work on your processes this winter, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. First, be sure to consider all potential processes before diving into one of them. This will prevent you or your team from working on lower-priority processes while overlooking more important processes. Spring will be here before you know it, so it’s imperative to prioritize.

Second, save documented processes in a place where they’re easily retrievable and back them up. The last thing you want to do is misplace process documentation or lose files during a computer malfunction.

Third, follow a systematic process for process documentation. That’s right—a process for processes. ‘Tis the season!

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